Federal Probe Extends Monitoring of Marion County Juvenile Center to 3 Years

Marion County must maintain and improve its juvenile lockup in several areas, including security, health and safety and education as part of an agreement with federal attorneys.

The two-year federal probe followed reports of sexual abuse of inmates at the Marion County Juvenile Detention Center. Ten workers were accused, with one man convicted of official misconduct.

Last week, government lawyers filed the agreement in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis. Under it, Marion County court officials agreed to continue monitoring the lockup for three years. They must provide status reports on the center and allow U.S. Department of Justice officials access to the facility, its records, staff and inmates.

"We want the detention center to operate with the highest standards of security and conditions improvement," Marion Superior Court Judge Tanya Walton-Pratt, the center's supervising judge, said in an e-mail to The Indianapolis Star for a Monday story. "We realize that detention reform is a process, and we are proud of what has been accomplished over the past few years."

The court's executive committee has overseen the center since 2005, and the following year a criminal investigation found unsafe conditions, high employee turnover and other problems.

The federal agreement maps out more than two-dozen areas to address, including that the center must:

— maintain adequate staffing

— improve and increase programs to reduce detainees' idle time

— reduce use of isolation, provide mental health care and improve procedures for reporting abuses

— implement safety programs and improve sanitation

— work with the schools to ensure detainees' access to education.

The justice department laid out its concerns about the center in an August report that said improvements had been made but more work was needed.

Over the past year, security cameras were installed, employee training was expanded and the detainee population was reduced. Some 100 inmates between ages 7 and 17 are detained in the 144-bed center.

In August, a judge acquitted the center's former superintendent who faced felony charges of obstruction of justice and neglect of a dependent.

In 2006, sexual abuse and misconduct allegations were levied against 10 workers after reports of staffers abusing current and former detainees.

One 34-year-old former detention worker pleaded guilty to two counts of official misconduct, avoiding sexual misconduct and child solicitation charges. He was sentenced to one year on work release.

The probe had eroded as former female detainees, ages 13 to 16, recanted or refused to testify in most of the cases, resulting in dropped charges.